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The small town of Karakol is located at the eastern end of Lake Issyk- Kul and is the administrative centre of the region. It began life as a Russian military garrison town established in the 1860s and was originally known as Przewalsky after the Russian explorer, Nikolai Przewalsky. The town has many whitewashed colonial style houses. The Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral is a beautiful wooden building topped with green-roofed towers and gold onion domes. Completed in 1895, it was partially destroyed and turned into a gymnasium in the 1930s by the Soviets. It has since undergone restoration and contains some excellent paintings and reliefs.

Another notable wooden building, completed in the early 1900s and constructed entirely without nails, is the Chinese mosque. Resembling a Chinese pagoda, this functioning mosque took three years to complete. On the outskirts of the main town is a large memorial to Nikolai Przewalsky, who died in 1888 and was buried here at his request. Alongside his tomb set in large gardens is a huge eagletopped stone memorial and a small museum about the life of this man who explored what was once uncharted Central Asia.

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